#9 THE BEST GOALS
Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter is not exactly a man renowned for his egalitarian spirit. While leading the perpetually embattled football body, there’s little doubt he delivered the game to many uncharted corners. But this genuinely felt less like him wanting to open up the sport to the world than close his wallet on another mega payday. However, Blatter does deserve plaudits for The Puskás Award, an annual gong for the year’s “most beautiful goal”.
READ MORE: Who could replace Zidane at Real Madrid?
At the inaugural event in 2009, the fairly obvious likes of Ronaldo, Iniesta and Torres stood alongside Eliran Atar from Israel’s Bnei Yehuda and Luis Ángel Landín, playing in Mexico for Cruz Azul, in a celebration of the sport’s global reach. It’s easily overlooked just how much football gets played worldwide and that there are actually more than 22 teams in British football. So when considering the best goals this country has produced, it seems wise to follow Blatter’s lead, for once, and concentrate purely on the lower leagues. Let’s golazo!
Winner of the second series of Sky One’s barely remembered Football Icon talent search, Carl Magnay was on the books at Chelsea before a devastating run of injuries saw him drop into the lower divisions. Joining non-league Gateshead, the defender hit this absolute screamer in a 3-2 win against Chester FC, striking the ball with such force it was later spotted by NASA tearing across the sky towards the moon, dragging a bedraggled net in its vanquished wake.
The most recent goal comes from Danny Dubidat, who plays for Alvechurch in the Evo Stick League South, eight divisions below the Premiership. He earned comparisons to Dennis Bergkamp with this worldie, which came against Sheffield FC as the clock ran down, the match tied at 2-2. Speaking about his epic volley, Dubidat said, with a totally understated awareness of what he’d just done: “To be fair I had a stinker for most of the game, so to score that was a massive relief.”
A few months after Dele Alli hit that wonder goal against Crystal Palace in 2016, South Shields striker Warren Byrne struck an equally stunning effort in the 3-0 win at Tow Law Town. “Well done Sir…give that man another pork pie,” commented a fan on YouTube, rather rudely, while a fellow poster announced: “Welcome to the premier league mate.” This might seem rather churlish until you review another clip, documenting the collection of crackers Byrne scored during that same season.
Colin “Quirky” Quirk’s bravura effort for Barnton Town against Daisy Hill was named winner of the 2015 Budweiser Dream Goal competition. In fact, the dummy and dink was deemed so good it even got the pundit treatment from Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville, who poured adulation on Quirky’s effort and ignored the rather more circumspect analysis from a fellow expert on YouTube, who said: “Keeper had 8 pints and a doner kebab the night before.”
So professionally filmed it looks like it could have been staged, the goal Tom “Odgie” Davis hit in Woking & Weybridge’s 6-1 win vs Chertsey Harriers was surely lifted right from Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka playbook. Scored in the Surrey & Hants Border League Division 2, Davis was described by one footballing website as the team’s “rotund #15 maverick”. These are words that Sunday league football (and this blog) were invented for.
Truro City FC are based in Cornwall and can lay claim to hosting one of non-league’s greatest goals, with this meandering, Messi-esque dribble in their 7-3 win over Biddestone in 2006. Defender Jake Ash is something of a club legend, having played a part in six promotions, winning a Wembley final and almost seeing the club go out of business. “I’ve been inordinately lucky,” said Ash, cementing his legend status by using a word most footballers would never dream of.
If you’re going to make a pitch for the big leagues, the best time is surely a high-profile FA Cup fixture being broadcast live on the BBC. Enter Richie Allen, who unveiled an epic Cruyff turn, incisive 1-2 and sliding finish for Salford City in 2015’s memorable win over Notts County. Remarkably, his bosses, former Manchester United legends Phil and Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, who own the club, were all there to see it.
Midfielder Joe Healy won non-league goal of the season at 2013’s National Game Awards for this acrobatic scissor kick against Grimsby. Still plying his trade for Welling United, Healy is considered “one of the best midfielders at this level of football” by his club. Consider this his masterpiece.
In just five touches, Berkhamsted midfielder Josh Chamberlain earned himself honorary lifetime membership to non-league football’s hall of fame. This skilful dribble and long range blitzkrieg from near the halfway line helped his team to a 3-1 win in 2015’s FA Vase match against Kempston Rovers. The one criticism? He looks a touch one-footed.
It’s not just the dilapidated, half-empty stadiums that bring genuine romance to these goals but also the normally inaudible tannoy announcements. That’s certainly true of this goal, although nothing should take away from the mesmeric, genial skills of Glen Little’s 2013 strike for Wealdstone vs Dulwich Hamlet. Rather like another Glenn in his absolute pomp, has non-league football ever seen a better goal than this?
NEXT WEEK: THE WORST FOOTBALL